Friday, December 14, 2012

Help! We have too much help!

I really hate to gripe about this and so please don't take this as a complaint, but I have too many teens interested in volunteering!  Or maybe it is better to say “I have all these teens and not enough work!”  Before I start in with my story, let me just say that I LOVE my teen volunteers, they are amazing hard workers and don't know what I would do without them.  I suppose this post is exactly what the title implies, a cry for help, maybe some advice from my experienced teen/youth services librarians.  I’m also wondering, do other Youth Service Librarians struggle with this issue?


Currently, I have about 30 teen volunteers.  I have about 3-4 volunteering at any given time after school and on weekends.  They help with tutoring, leading and assisting with programs, shelving, preparing for crafts, stamping books, folding monthly calendars, and of course, they are a huge help during Summer Reading Program with sign-ups and handing out prizes.  30 is a good number.  It suits our library's needs.  There are times where I am scrambling, trying to find something for them to do, but generally it works.  But I certainly cannot handle more.

iStockphoto,raised,hands,answering,students,professionals,humans,voting,palms,fingers,teamwork,volunteering,conceptsThe "problem" is that I have about 40 applications in my desk from teens that are dying for a volunteer opportunity at the library.  I have been receiving them since I began my position in May, 2012.  When I started, we already had the summer volunteers picked and the applications that were turned in after that were put aside for the fall.  Many of the applicants from June are still waiting to volunteer.  They (and their parents) check in with me every so often asking when a spot will open up and I tell them it may take a few months and that I'll get back to them.  Once, a parent told me that the rejection will severely hurt their child’s self-esteem.  Ugh!  I created a handout for them which offer other volunteer opportunities in the area.  They thank me, but they still keep checking back. 

My current procedure is that once a volunteer comes onboard, is trained and is working out; they can stay as long as they want.  When one drops, a new one can be added.  So it is very difficult to estimate when a new applicant will be able to volunteer.  My branch manager suggested that I limit their time to only one semester or season, such as fall semester, spring semester and summer.  Then when it is over, they leave and I train a whole new group.  I see 3 problems with this:
  1. Time commitment -  Training takes a lot of time and patience and I would hate to send a volunteer away once they are independent and knowledgeable about the collection. 
  2. Shooting myself in the foot - While I have a lot of applicants, I don't know if I would have enough to have new groups every semester.  Let’s say only 20 applicants apply for spring semester and then who do I choose from my old semester to fill the remaining 10 spots?
  3. Teens have an agenda -  They need to fulfill a certain amount of volunteer hours, which may not be able to be completed in one semester. 

Too much of a good thing: that is my problem.  Any advice?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Gift Giving Guide

For those teen bibliophiles in your life, here are some great resources for finding the best holiday books and book-related gifts for teens.

Huffington Post article on YA book-inspired jewelry


YA Librarian Jennifer Rummel's
YA Book Nerd post on Christmas Book Ideas for Teens

Great Graphic Novels

New York Times Notable Children's Books

School Library Journal Best Books of 2012

                                Publisher's Weekly Best Books of 2012 


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wimpy Kid Book Release Party

This month The Third Wheel, the 7th book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, or what will be asked for by children and parents at the question desk as the brown book, hit the shelves. To celebrate at our library, we had a book release party for tweens. Last year, for the release of Cabin Fever, we had a local comic book artist come and do a class with the kids, which was great, but this year I wanted to do a full on party complete with games, prizes, food and crafts.

I came across a very helpful resource online to plan the games portion of the party, an event kit for Dog Days, the 4th book. I went ahead and used three of the games after slightly modifying them. 

Every kid received a raffle ticket and a name tag with a Wimpy Kid character placed on their back upon arriving.  The Name Tag Game was a great ice breaker. Kids had to guess their character’s name by asking others questions about their character.  

The initial group game we played to get the kids warmed up was Cheese Touch.  Our version of this was much like Hot Potato. I pulled two yellow bean bags from our children’s storytime supplies and used these as the cheese touch. All the kids sat in a circle and passed around the cheese touch while I played music. Every time I stopped the music, the kids all screamed and laughed and whoever had a bean bag got out of the circle.  The winner of the game received The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book.

After, we divided the kids up into four teams and had two rounds of the "Wimpy Kid" Trivia and Secret Word Game, which was very much like Taboo and pushed the kids to overcome shyness and think outside the box. We had over forty kids so it was a little crazy at times but a lot of fun. Luckily, I had staff and teen volunteers helping out. I was impressed by how many of the kids remembered such specific details from the books. Instead of giving a prize for winning, everyone on the team received raffle tickets for every point or question answered correctly.

For food I decided to go with school lunch type of snacks, including string cheese, juice boxes, goldfish crackers, cookies, fruit snacks and fruit roll ups. They disappeared in no time at all.

We raffled off prizes that included a few of the old Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Wimpy Kid 2013 calendars with Jeff Kinney’s autograph that library staff had picked up at ALA Annual, book lights, and copies of The Third Wheel. The raffle was quite an event because due to the games the kids had multiple raffle tickets to consult every time a winner was picked. Plus, no kid left empty handed   Every attendee received a free kid’s meal coupon to a nearby restaurant.

We finished the party by decorating journals. Each kid received a composition notebook and in the middle of each table was a mix of markers, stickers, scissors, glue, magazines, fabric and construction paper so they could get creative and use all kinds of mediums to personalize their covers.

I’m looking forward to the next installment in this series that gets so many kids reading, into the library and excited about books!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The End is Here...11.16.12!

Woo Hoo or Boo Hoo?!?

Speaking of love triangles, Courtney, did you know that Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 is premiering tomorrow, November 16th?!? Of course you did because you are one of the rabid fans who are probably gathering their sleeping bags and coolers in preparation for the midnight premier camp out. :) One of my adorable teen regulars tried to coax me into taking him and his group of friends to the midnight premier but, alas, I will be sound asleep while the rest of you bask in the glow of Edward's glitter.

Whether you're sad that the Twilight series movies are about to be over or happy to no longer have to hear about Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, you probably have a strong feeling one way or another about Twilight. I know the teens certainly do. So when the opportunity came up to receive some amazing giveaways from 42West, the PR firm for the company producing the film, I had to jump on it.  I received posters, keychains, pens, bracelets, temporary tattoos, and to bump up my attendance, I decided to give everything away at my regularly scheduled teen craft program, Crafternoon. What a hit! Teens were lined up waiting nearly 30 minutes before the program even started. No matter what your feelings are for the series or the movies, you have to love that they're getting teens into the library and into books!

Just a few of my happy, satisfied teens!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Triangles in Young Adult Literature

It's a well worn trope now: the completely normal (although absolutely fascinating) girl must choose between two very different boys who are both madly in love with her for unknown reasons.   Is this ringing a bell yet?  The gentlemen in question are always polar opposites.  First, we have the gentle, mysterious and oh so classically handsome pick.  He is generally first on the scene.   You can expect him to perform some life saving measure on swoon worthy girl before the plot picks up too much.  Enter boy #2.  In stark contrast, this character will be attractive in a much different fashion.  Blonde hair v. Black hair.  Blue eyes v. Brown eyes.  Vampire v. Werewolf.   : ).   Boy #2's startling honesty and openness are a foil to the mystery that surrounds our first gentlemen.   And when completely boring, but absolutely captivating girl is pushed to choose between the two – good ol’ teen, drama ensues.
So, what's with the triangle that seems to have taken over young adult literature in recent years?  It's unfair to pin Stephanie Meyer with the full responsibility of this new feature.  After all, love triangles have existed since Cathy and Heathcliff.  And yet, there is no denying the spate of books featuring the now quite common triangle.  And don't be mistaken, this is not just a feature of the, also über popular, paranormal titles like Fallen by Lauren Kate and Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.  These triangles can be found in realistic fiction like The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson and dystopian titles such as Matched by Ally Condie and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

So, what gives?  Are we to believe that young adult authors are attempting to reveal a universal teen truth?  Do all teens experience some sort of triangle?  Or, do all teens simply want to think that a triangle is possible?   Quite possibly, it is the choice itself that attracts such a keen readership.  After all, the choice is always dangerously poised between danger and safety.  Bella always knew Jacob was safer choice than Edward; choosing Edward literally kills her.  Ultimately, all these titles position the reader to ask themselves, “who would you choose?” and perhaps more importantly, “what does that choice say about you?”

Friday, November 2, 2012

Teen Read.....Month?

When I began thinking about what I wanted to do for my first ever Teen Read Week as a Youth Services Librarian, I was a little overwhelmed. It was early September, Summer Reading Program just ended (I was looking for a much needed breather), and when looking at my community room calendar, I realized it was totally booked through 2012. What could I do that would spark some interest and not require a group gathering? I looked to YALSA'S Teen Read Week website ( for ideas and ta-da! Short Story Contest! Being that the theme was "It Came From the Library," I thought it would be fun to do a short SCARY story contest.
I looked into my programming funds and unclaimed SRP 2012 raffle prizes and I was ready to go. I was going to have two age divisions: high school and middle school. First place winners would receive Kindles, second place - $25 Target gift cards, and third place - $10 ITunes gift cards. I made a flier and plastered it all over the walls, posted on Facebook, and emailed every high school and middle school principal within a 10 mile radius. It was mid September at this point and the contestants would have until October 26th to turn it in.
I have to say, receiving my first entry was by far the most exciting moment of the contest for me. The poor girl just about jumped a foot when I screamed as she handed it over. They were writing! This might work!
Come October 26th, I had 62 middle school contestants and ONE high school contestant. Yay for all the entries, bummer about my high schoolers. I quickly rearranged the divisions: 6th-7th graders and 8th - high school.
Luckily, my Branch Manager and Library Assistant agreed to help me score the stories and by announcement date (November 2nd), we had our winners.
I posted the winners on a sign in the library entrance way, on Facebook, and I called them individually. It was a blast telling the winners, especially Joshua (see picture) who said that he's never won anything his whole life. His mom whispered to me that nobody in their family had ever won anything.
It took a lot of time reading and judging those stories, but I got a lot of chuckles out of it and I actually got scared way more than I thought I would. This might be a new Carmel Valley tradition!  Question to ponder for next year: how do I get more high school entries?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Halloween Storytime Favorites

Halloween time is one of the best at the library. We decorate the children’s room and are rewarded by toddlers barreling into the area joyfully shouting, “Halloween!” upon seeing the confetti filled cauldron, jack-o-lantern lights and hanging cobwebs. We buy ghost stickers, purple spider rings and black cat bookmarks as treats for the kids. We put together costumes, shopping at thrift stores, sewing something from scratch or raiding our closets, in order to properly impress the little ones. We create festive flyers featuring images of pumpkins and scarecrows for the main focus of our Halloween celebrations - storytimes.

There are a plethora of delightful picture books to choose from for Halloween storytimes but my favorite ones are those that you don’t need to read but can tell instead. Doing weekly storytimes year round isn't conducive for proper storytelling without the book. It can be time intensive and takes a lot of prep but for our special holiday events I love to lose the book. I think groups have a more memorable and captivating experience when they must use their imagination and rely solely on the storyteller’s voice. It also allows for you to better connect with the audience and involve them in the story. Here are some of my favorites that I have used in the past few years.

The Teeny Tiny Woman by Paul Galdone
The incessant repetition of “teeny tiny” makes it easy to tell. Even if you don’t remember the story word for word, you can easily ad-lib and just tack on “teeny tiny” in front of whatever you say. Plus, kids find the fact that you are constantly saying “teeny tiny” exasperatingly entertaining.

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything 
by Linda Williams
A true Halloween classic. This is great with or without the book, although, you need something to show at the end since the big surprise is a scarecrow, so I’d recommend doing it as a flannel board. This interactive story is great for a wide range of ages and no matter how many times kids have heard it, they don’t get sick of it.

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman
Modeled after The Enormous Turnip, it is a fun story starring a witch who can’t get her big pumpkin off the vine so enlists the help of a ghost, vampire, mummy and a bat. Again, the repetition makes it an easy and engaging story to share. I speed up the sequences as it goes along to make it more dramatic.

The Little Green Witch by Barbara Barbieri McGrath
This one too is a spin off a familiar tale, The Little Red Hen. The ghost, bat and gremlin in the story are lazy and refuse to help the little green witch throughout the process of making a pumpkin pie so she decides to teach them a lesson and cleverly turns them into little red hens.

The Little Orange House by Jean Stangi
This is a cut and tell story so while cutting a piece of orange paper with scissors you describe how you are making a house for a little witch and at the end you have an unexpected picture of a jack-o-lantern. The audience is always pleasantly surprised.

Looking at my list, I realize the best Halloween stories all seem to feature petite women or witches. Another story I’m excited to try out in the future, that does not feature a little woman, is one I heard from a locally hired performer who tells campfire stories. It’s called The Ghost with One Black Eye. Again, it has all the right elements, repetition, humor and a somewhat unexpected ending.

When I do end up using the book during holiday storytimes, I select ones that have a little more pizazz since we get a huge turnout and it takes a little something extra keeping the attention of a large crowd of young ones. Here are some of my favorite books to use and they all have a musical bent.

Shake Dem Halloween Bones by W. Nikola-Lisa
I had high hopes for this one after looking last year for some fresh Halloween book fare. I somehow ended up watching a Youtube video of a teacher and her first grade class reading it. The class looked like they were having the best time performing it so I knew that it would work perfectly for storytime. I had the pleasure of reading it to preschoolers yesterday and it lived up to my expectations.

Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia Andrews
A super interactive story about a town's Halloween romp in the graveyard. It will get everyone moving, in high spirits and will be stuck in your head long after you finish reading it.

The Monster Mash by David Catrow
This is a recently published book with beautiful illustrations accompanying the well-known Monster Mash song. I must admit that I haven't been brave enough to actually try it yet. I’m not much of a singer and while I’ll unabashedly sing storytime rhymes and chant loudly and proudly, this might be beyond my scope. Maybe I’ll practice it and see if I’m up to it next year.

These special Halloween storytimes always feel magical and because Halloween programs are an easy sell to families, they provide a wonderful opportunity to share with kids the absolute joy of reading, introduce parents that are new library users to the fun and free activities that we offer and leave a positive and lasting impression on all who participate.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Silver Phoenix's Cindy Pon Has a Heart of Gold

As is probably the case for most teen librarians, attendance at my In BeT(w)een Book Club waxes and wanes throughout the year. In order to spice things up and attrack more members I often invite authors of the books we're reading to join us. It's usually via Skype, so imagine how thrilled I was  when San Diego author Cindy Pon agreed to come chat with us live in person!

Her books Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix are epic adventures set in ancient China so attendees were treated to scrumptious Chinese food.

The turnout was one of the best I've had all year, and the discussion was non-stop. We even went over our allotted hour because the teens didn't want to leave. That's a successful book club!

Discussion topics included the process of designing a cover and the implications of having an ethnic model as the star; the type of research needed to complete a tale set in an ancient, foreign land filled with adventure, fantasy, heartbreak, and loss; and a new vocab term "unrequited love". Here is just a snippet of what Cindy had to say.

JA: What does your writing process look like? Do you carve out a routine (same place/same time every day) or do you just start writing when an inspiration strikes you? Do you outline your books and already know how they will end from the beginning, or does it develop organically as you write?
CP: I can take months off after finishing a novel. In fact, I've had a good four month break since finishing my third Xia fantasy featuring a serpent demon as a heroine. I hope to start the sequel in November. I am very organized in real life. I love lists, I love planning ahead. Imagine my surprise that this is NOT the way I approach novel writing. I am very intuitive when I write. I don't do outlines. I don't plan. I do have a document that is a "catch all" for any ideas, dialogues, scenes, etc that come to mind that I think can be in the new novel. Also notes to myself on possible inconsistencies and things I need to fix during revisions. I do visuaIize scenes in my head before I write them. Perhaps not the entire scene, but some of it. I seem to write the novel in two parts. I will set aside time in the mornings (now that my children are at school) to write one thousand words a day. If it is more than that, great! Sometimes it takes forty minutes to get those one thousand words. Some days it takes four hours. I will often write the first half of a novel (thirty to forty thousand words), take a few months off (not on purpose, but due to schedule) then finish the second half later.

JA: Where did the initial idea for these books come from?
CP: Silver Phoenix was the first novel I wrote. It came about because I was staying home with the kids full time and needed something to call my own again. Fantasy had always been a favorite genre and at the time, I was beginning to learn more about Chinese history and culture. I decided to blend the two loves for my first novel. I didn't know anything about Silver Phoenix going in other than that it would be inspired by ancient China, it would be a heroine's journey, and that it would be about unrequited love.

JA: Why do you use the term eating sticks instead of chop sticks?
CP: Ha! I know it might seem totally random but chopsticks is such an "American" term to me. It is like fortune cookie and chop suey. Not a Chinese term. Unfortunately, the Chinese words for "chopsticks" doesn't translate into anything easily understood, so I made up "eating sticks' instead. =)

JA: Ai Ling has the most amazing super power of being able to enter another being and hear their thoughts and even control them from within. If you had a super power, what would it be?

CP: Oh, that is easy. Telekinesis. The ability to move objects with your mind. Best superpower ever. Never get up to get the remote control again!!

JA: What are your top 10 YA books of all time?
CP: Oh, these questions are so hard. Because I do think the list often changes as one reads more and more great books within young adult. I shall focus on great reads that are inclusive of diverse characters:

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Huntress by Malinda Lo
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills T
he Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
White Cat by Holly Black
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
Cindy is incredibly busy writing, being a full time mom, and traveling to participate in conventions, conferences, and other important author business. However, if you tweet at her @cindypon and ask really, really nicely she will probably make time to connect with your book club as well. It's completely worth it!

Thank you, Cindy, for making our book club so much better!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ch...Ch...Changes! Welcome new Dewey Devils!

We've had a lot of change recently here at So-Cal Connection. Kirby accepted a new position and is doing incredible things in Oregon, and Lali decided to concentrate on multicultural reader's advisory by creating her own fabulous blog, Masala Reader. We'll keep tabs on them through their periodic guest posts. I'm excited to have three new Dewey Devils on board, though, to share their wisdom, programming ideas, and tales of woe from the world of Youth Services Librarianship!

So check out their pics and bios, stay tuned for some awesome posts, and if you have ideas for topics you would like us to blog about please leave us a comment!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Are the Champions!

We did it! Teens from the Escondido Public Library's Teen Summer Reading Club won the Minute to Win It National Teen Lock-In Challenge! And according to the judges, there was no competition! Check out our trophy!

But Minute to Win It was just one part of the amazing Creatures of the Night Lock-In that we hosted for the teens who read and/or attended library events for 25 hours or more. This was the first time I had ever hosted an after-hours lock-in, and once the logistics of creating permission slips and getting staff coverage were taken care of, the rest was a piece of cake...zombie cake that is! Yes, those are gummy body parts! :)

As with all of my teen events, I set this up carnival style with multiple stations that the teens could participate in so that there was never a back-up. Teens could create Zombie Barbies...

Work with a former Rockstar Games video game animator, Tom Carroll, to create flip book and claymation monsters...

Make themselves over at the America's Next Top Monster Make-Over Station...

Create Zombigami...

Compete in the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Challenge...

Chat with the author of Rot & Ruin, Jonathan Maberry...

And, of course, pig out!!!

The night ended with a monster runway show and prizes for all of the winners!

You can view all of our lock-in photos (including the runway show) on Flickr.

If you'd like to host your own Creatures of the Night party or have any questions about participating in next year's nationwide lock-in feel free to ask!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Teen Novel Team (TNT) is Dyno-Mite!

As the only Teen Librarian in my library I often feel like a lone ranger when it comes to juggling the many balls required to advocate for and provide excellent service and programming for my community's teens. One of the biggest challenges I face in my project management is trying to preview books for my In BeT(w)een Book Club. Ideally, we are asked to schedule out our programming on a quarterly basis. In order to find 3 suitable books for the book club, I often have to read upwards of 12. I read all of the usual professional review journals and scope out teen literature blogs, but sometimes that's just not enough. This can become overwhelming on top of listening to audio books for my role on the Odyssey Award committee, reading books to book talk during my Summer Reading Club Burritos & Books program, covering desk hours, keeping up with collection development, managing my other ongoing programs, and the other day-to-day tasks that come along with running the Teen Department.

During a recent pity party with my mentor, she reminded me that I am NOT alone and that I should tap into the wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm that exists among staff members in other departments. And thus was born the TNT - Teen Novel Team.

I sent out a call to our entire library staff - from pages all the way up to the City Librarian - asking for people who enjoy reading teen fiction and would be willing to help me select books for my book club. I received very positive responses from 5 people right away, and I'm expecting that a few more will join up soon.

I didn't ask for any kind of commitment or give them a specific time frame. I simply asked them to keep my criteria in mind as they read the teen novels they already enjoy and then email me a short summary if they think their book fits the bill. The criteria I use for selecting book club books are that they:

  • Are appropriate for ages 11-16 (note any gratuitous sex, swearing, drug use, etc)
  • Available in paperback (I purchase a copy for each teen to keep)
  • Have enough depth to generate a discussion 
  • Cover a variety of different genres (so I wouldn’t plan two sci fi books back to back)
  • I always provide a snack related to the book, so as you’re reading if you can keep that in mind and make note of any foods that’re discussed that’s also very helpful.
  • I always plan an activity to go along with the book in case the discussion falls flat. So if you keep that in mind as you’re reading and suggest any fun things that tie in with the book that’s great.
Creating this inter-departmental team has not only lightened my workload, but it has also allowed me to engage members of other departments who have an interest in teen culture thus breaking down some of the departmentalization (and negative stereotyping of teens) that exists in my library. This, in turn, will hopefully make them more willing to champion our causes, staff our events, and forgive the minor indiscretions that teens sometimes commit.  So if you're feeling overwhelmed or like a lone ranger fighting the good fight by yourself, try asking your coworkers for their input. You never know who has a hidden talent or passion that could benefit you and your teens.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Best National Library Week Gift Ever

Yesterday I presented to six English 9 Intensive classes (these are freshmen who are reading at a 4th - 7th grade reading level) on all the "rah rah" amazing things the library has to offer to try and dispel some of the stereotypes that they probably have about libraries. These are the kids who need my help the most, but I'll admit that I left feeling deflated after some of the sessions because they were a TOUGH crowd. As I was leaving, I stopped in to say hi to the Library Media Tech and while we were chatting a student delivered a National Library Week gift to her from his class.

I was jealous that not only had one of her faculty members actually remembered that it was National Library Week, but that he was also thoughtful enough to acknowledge the hard work that librarians do and the impact they make on students by giving her a gift.

Well, I shouldn't have been jealous at all because today I received the most wonderful gift any librarian could ask for. One of the teachers that I presented for emailed me this morning and the story she told makes all my outreach totally worthwhile! Here's what she said...

This morning, one of my students came in and told me he started reading The Price of Loyalty (a book you gave away) and read 3 chapters. This is a student who does not do homework or read outside of class. He said it reminded him of a story he read in one of our books--Survivors (by Scholastic). He said he started the book when he got home from school, took a break and read until bedtime. This is amazing! When he is finished, he will trade his book with another student who is reading Grafitti Moon. Thank you for the books! and recommendations! This is awesome! Thank you.

So if there are other teen librarians out there who feel like their outreach efforts are for naught, share in this small victory with me and keep doing what you're doing!

Happy National Library Week!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Host a Hunger Games Party

Last night was our Hunger Games Movie Release Party, and it was AWESOME! We had about 75 people which was the perfect size for our space, number of activities, staffing levels, and timeline. I thought I'd share with you what we did and how we did it in case you're planning to host your own party.

I set up almost all of my teen programs in a carnival-style setting where there are multiple activities going on at the same time. This helps reduce congestion and bottle necking because teens can do the activities in any order and come back to the ones with long lines. We kept the décor pretty simple by blowing up the District symbols and taping them up across the room. I did everything else (table cloths, plates, cups, etc) in shades of red, orange, and yellow. When teens first walked into the room we had a registration table where they picked up their score cards already pre-printed with District #s.

They then filled out Reaping slips with the name and District # and dropped them into their corresponding District’s bag.

Then I had everyone gather at the tables which divided the room between the survival stations and the arena where the Cornucopia Challenge would be held. This gave everyone a chance to get in the door and allowed me to have their undivided attention to explain how the day would work.

Once I explained all of the stations, I let them free to have fun. The different survival stations where teens could earn points were…

  • Knot tying
  • Edible Plant Identification
  • Wii Archery

We also had Cinna's Makeover Station where teens could get their faces painted and temporary mockingjay tattoos as well as Project Runway: Katniss where teens could design an outfit for a paper doll version of Katniss.

I gave the teens about 45 minutes to work visit each station, and then I got on the microphone to announce “Attention in the arena! You are being rewarded for your skills and good behavior with parachute snacks. Help yourselves!” and we tossed individual snack bags that we had attached homemade parachutes to into the room. The teens ran around collecting them and LOVED it. I call this the Snack Bomb.

Then we went right into the Reaping where I selected 2 names from each District to compete in the Cornucopia Challenge. I got the Cornucopia Challenge off the ya-yaak listserv (sorry I can’t remember who specifically posted it) but I modified it in order to have two rounds so that 24 teens could compete instead of just 12. Before starting, I laid down the ground rules of “no pushing, shoving, or stealing” and then I released them to race in and grab 1 item from the pile of survival necessities. Then I read the survival scenarios and whoever had the items I read off earned points. The points they earned were then rewarded to everyone in their District. Everyone came away from this unscathed and with no major injuries so I was happy about that. The other teens enjoyed cheering on their Tributes and/or continued to visit the stations they hadn’t made it to yet.

After the CC, we cut the cake and in exchange for their piece the teens had to turn in their orange score cards and their green plant ID forms. While we were tabulating scores and the teens were eating, we showed the movie trailer and some other interviews with cast members on a projector screen at the front of the room. That, combined with our background Hunger Games soundtrack, really added to the atmosphere.

The only area where we didn’t quite stick to our schedule was at this point right before the program was scheduled to end. There were teens who came in later than the 4:00 PM start time and therefore took longer to complete each other stations. In order to make it fair, we had to wait for their score cards before handing out the prizes, so that pushed us about 8 minutes over schedule, but I always end my programs at least 30 minutes prior to closing so that we have leeway and still have time to clean up and get everyone out of the building.

Once the scores were tabulated, we awarded prizes. I had 12 total prizes including 7 giveaway readalike books, a copy of the special edition People magazine that was devoted to the movie, a Hunger Games notepad that a colleague brought back from PLA, a boxed set of the trilogy, and two movie ticket bundles (tickets, gift cards to the theater for snacks, and movie sized boxes of candy.

In addition, everyone who participated got a mockingjay pin (we made these in-house) and a bookmark that I got for free from Scholastic (that’s where I got the mockingjay tattoos as well).

All-in-all it was one of the most successful programs I’ve run to date, and everyone who helped out said they really enjoyed it. I also got some great comments from parents thanking me for putting on such a cool program to encourage teens to read. *pat on the back…job well done* J

If you would like more detailed info, copies of any of the documents I created, instructions for making the snack parachutes, or anything else just comment here with your email address. I’m more than happy to share! You can view all our pictures on the Escondido Public Library Facebook page: /escondidolibrary

Monday, March 19, 2012


Listening to Jerry Pinkney talk about his latest book Twinkle Twinkle Little Star made me want to use it in my PJ storytime tomorrow. Although he is one of my favorite authors/illustrators and his work is amazing, I have never read one of his books during a storytime. Hope it goes well, any tips? I am seriously fan-girling in this picture, but I had to share.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hunger Games Bulletin Board Tips

I don't know about you, but bulletin boards are one of the banes of my existence as a librarian. I used to love doing them, but now they're just a time sucking hassle, and I truly wonder if they have any impact on the teens they're supposed to attract. Nevertheless, there is a board that need to be filled in my teen area, so I usually try and put up something that can stay up for many months which reduces the amount of time I have to devote to coming up with ideas and executing them.

However, I wanted to create a special bulletin board to advertise our Hunger Games Movie Release party on March 21, and when I searched the internet for ideas I was shocked at the lack thereof! So I decided to share my idea with you, and hopefully you all will share other bulletin board ideas with me as you create them. Maybe together we can make this a less painful process. :)

As I was assembling my bulletin board display, I started to think about how many of us operate as lone rangers or with limited, albeit much appreciated, support from children's services staff. So as I was putting this up by myself today I thought it might be useful to post some tips on how to put up a bulletin board if you're all alone.

- My bulletin board is about 60 inches across x 48 inches high and my arms are certainly not that long. So one trick I use is to stick push pins in the upper and lower left hand corners of the paper to hold it in place while I'm rolling it across the bulletin board. Once you get to the other side you can staple it into place and then go back and replace the other push pins with staples.

- Buy a staple gun! Depending on the location & accessibility of your bulletin board, you may have to contort yourself to get the stapler in the correct angle and a staple gun is just so much easier to maneuver than a Swingline stapler from the Reference Desk.

- Try to think ahead to what your next bulletin board motif will be and choose a background paper in a color you can leave up and reuse for multiple displays.

- As I mentioned above, I try to come up with generic themes that last can span many months.

- Use re-positionable double-stick tape, especially when you're positioning text, so you can step back & get perspective to make sure everything is straight or properly aligned before you cover it with staples.

- If you're really a perfectionist, you can even raid the nearest tool box to borrow the level.

For this display, I used a red background that was already up from a February display, and cut out orange letters that spell "May the odds be ever in your favor". The contrast in the picture doesn't come through very well, but in person they're very readable. I then free-handed some flames from orange bulletin board paper and centered our Hunger Games Movie Release Party poster along with a mockingjay image and voila! I only had about an hour to assemble this today, so I may go back and add more to it tomorrow. I would love to add some glitter, paint some contrasting flames on the orange, and add some texture to the fire such as cellophane or even some yellow plastic bags that I found leftover from summer reading. Oh the possibilities!